Toto Wolff, the new Mercedes co-owner and director, has played down reports of a growing rift between the team’s German and British factions in the aftermath of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
After German Nico Rosberg was ordered by Ross Brawn to stay behind Briton Lewis Hamilton at Sepang, Austrians Wolff and Niki Lauda admitted their disapproval.
But RTL now quotes Wolff as saying: “The decision was unpopular, but right.”
The incident is being compared to the situation at Red Bull, where team bosses tried – but ultimately failed – to impose a ‘hold station’ order at Sepang.
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko had tried to differentiate the teams by insisting “It’s not like at Mercedes, where there’s a clear number 1 and number 2”.
Hamilton – who according to Marko is undoubtedly the ‘1’ – dismissed that as “rubbish”.
“They (Red Bull) have a clear one and two, they always have had,” the 2008 world champion told British reporters. “And that is why they have always had the problems they have had.”
But during Martin Brundle’s Sky commentary in Malaysia, the former McLaren driver admitted he finds it hard to believe Hamilton decided to switch to Mercedes over the winter without the promise of higher status.
Hamilton denied: “I have always said, from the moment I was speaking to the team, that I wanted equality.”
That’s why the 28-year-old looked so unhappy despite finishing third on Sunday.
“I said to Ross at the end that I wanted to let him (Rosberg) past. He said ‘Absolutely not. When I tell you what I want (you) to do, you have to stick by it’,” recalled Hamilton.
Hans-Joachim Stuck, the German federation president, said he admires Rosberg for not behaving like Vettel in Malaysia.
“It was a textbook example of a world-class driver,” he told SID news agency. “He is an employee of Mercedes and so when he receives an order, he follows it.” (GMM)